First Bite: Son of a Gun, or What Would You Want To Change Anyway?
F. Friesema Jonagold apples
Whatever the current style in Los Angeles restaurants ends up being named, all of it -- from the small-plate thing to the fixation on local, organic produce; the off-center proteins to the international palette of flavors; and the resistance to even modest customer requests -- may have its origins in the cheeseburger conspiracies of Father's Office tsar Sang Yoon. But it also runs right through the kitchens of Animal, where Vinny Dotolo and Jon Shook refined both the concept of fried pigs' ears and the polite nod of refusal. At Animal, the chef is always right.
At Son of a Gun, Shook's and Dotolo's new seafood restaurant near the Beverly Center, the plates are smaller than ever, Neil Diamond rules the stereo and the chef is still always right. But it is hard to imagine what alterations you might want to make to a dish of smoked steelhead roe, maple-flavored cream and razor-thin shards of toast, which tastes like an extreme deconstruction of lox and cream cheese on a pumpernickel bagel. Or to a single Santa Barbara spot prawn, barely cooked, with a drop or two of melted butter; to seared albacore drizzled with ponzu or a few dimes of raw, sliced geoduck with olive oil and sea salt; to a chunk of the season's first Alaskan halibut garnished with sugarsnap pods, a taste of earliest spring, or grouper in a broth that tastes like lemongrass-spiked Vietnamese pho. Each of the plates is exquisite; each is about the heft of a tiny plate of sashimi. (What is the seafood equivalent of pigs' ear? Maybe the alligator schnitzel.)
What Shook and Dotolo are attempting here, I think, is an American version of abstracted post-Nobu places like Koi, with American seafood instead of imported yellowtail, jaunty Florida-style nautical implements on the walls instead of bamboo, country ham and cornbread instead of tonkatsu with cabbage and Dark & Stormys at the bar instead of sake. Just try and get alligator schnitzel at Nobu.